A number of church groups across the nation that were visiting Israel when the war with Hamas broke out have returned safely.
The tiny country was on track to near its record number of tourists achieved in 2019 when about 4.5 million visited. Estimates are there were about 205,000 tourists in the country at the time of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.
Members of First Baptist Church in Fernandina Beach, Fla., made it home last weekend.
“God used it all, and we’re very thankful,” senior pastor Zach Terry told Church Leaders magazine. “It’s good to be home. This salty piece of First Coast land is amazing, and we value it so much from everything that we’ve been through this week, just wondering how it would turn out sometimes. We’ve been through a lot.”
Israel Tour Update: WE ARE HOME! pic.twitter.com/6KvJDvF0hF
— Zach Terry (@zachterry) October 16, 2023
Terry recalled the events that unfolded when Hamas attacked Israel last week. “What happened moved so fast there at the Gaza border,” he said. “And then when we were in Jerusalem, we would hear the gunfire.”
The group later was able to move into Jordan in an attempt to secure flights back to the United States. During that time, the pastor shared that they were safe and that additional groups were trying to make it toward Jordan.
“That was cool to see all the cultures work together,” he said. “We couldn’t speak each other’s language, but we’re trying to be kind to each other and help each other get to safety.”
Members of Sunnyside Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., also returned safely. The church group was visiting the historic Jewish stronghold known as Masada at the Dead Sea when the terrorist attack took place.
“The national parks, the Dead Sea entrance and other sites were closing all over the area,” church member Angie Baker said. “People were leaving their businesses and returning to their homes. Over the next two days, we were very limited in where we could go and how long we could stay.”
Baker said she and her group “were relieved and very thankful” to have returned home and were amazed to find out how many people had kept them in prayer during this time.
“The joy we felt was overwhelming,” she said. “While we were never really afraid, because we knew that God was faithful, we were anxious and stressed, and when we got on the bus to Atlanta, we were all very joyful to be in our bus seat bound for home.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice